‘I gave them a bit of a rocket af half-time’ - Richie Murphy demands more of Ulster after Scarlets win

Despite trailing at half-time, Ulster scored four times against an ill-disciplined Welsh outfit to keep playoff hopes alive

Mike Lowry in URC action for Ulster against the Scarlets. Photograph: Ashley Crowden/Inpho
URC: Scarlets 20 Ulster 31

Yet again Ulster were not entirely convincing but what counted was that they captured maximum points to take sixth spot in the intensifying drive towards bolting down a play-off place with Leinster and Munster now to come.

Afterwards, interim head coach Richie Murphy revealed that he had not held back in demanding more from his side after they had arrived at the midway point trailing 6-3 having failed to initially score against 13 men when first Taine Plumtree and then Gareth Davies had been binned.

“I gave them a bit of a rocket at half time,” Murphy admitted with Ulster responding in the new half by scoring 14 crucial points before the hosts were fully restored.

“The big thing for us is to take this win, regroup and try to go again next week [at home to Leinster].


“We’ll go into it knowing that a win will put us in a really good place in relation to getting in the last eight,” he added.

Ulster looked a bit loose from the start and following the brighter start, the Scarlets got things moving when Sam Costelow landed a 10th minute penalty and then made it 6-0 on 26 minutes.

Ulster needed a response and got one John Cooney kicking a 27th minute penalty. That ought to have settled them but they were unable to score again in what remained of the half even though the Scarlets then crazily shipped two quick yellow cards in the closing minutes.

Ulster interim head coach Richie Murphy. Photograph: Steve Haag Sports/Inpho

Plumtree was first to go after a blatant slap down of the ball out of Cooney’s grasp on 37 minutes but the visitors’ profligacy near the line saw the prominent Cormac Izuchukwu, starting at flanker for the first time, held up on 37 minutes – he had also been stopped from grounding the ball five minutes earlier when both teams were at full strength.

Then with two minutes left in the first half, David McCann opted to grubber a ball through just as Ulster were looking in a good position to score but his kick went dead.

With the clock in red, Davies was shown yellow by referee Gianluca Gnecchi after tripping Eric O’Sullivan, leaving the Scarlets with just 13 on the field.

Ulster went for the line off a lineout maul but, for the third time, Izuchukwu was unable to ground the ball and the opening half ended with the Scarlets still leading 6-3.

Still facing 13, even though Ulster butchered another chance from a breakout, a try was inevitable and came two minutes into the new half when Stuart McCloskey surged through under the posts for the first touchdown of the game, Cooney converting to give Ulster the lead for the first time.

They extended it from a five-metre scrum, the powerful Nick Timoney claiming his 12th try of the season with Cooney’s extras ensuring that Ulster led 17-6.

Now energised by seemingly having control, Ulster claimed try number three on 54 minutes, McCann burrowing through after a series of pick and jams. Cooney’s conversion took their lead out to 24-6.

As ever with Ulster, they allowed the Scarlets back in when Carwyn Tuipulotu’s converted try cut their lead to 11 points on the hour.

Not for the first time, the Scarlets’ discipline then let them down, Stockdale being taken out and from the penalty to the corner, Ulster softened up the Welsh region’s defence with some hard and direct carries ahead of Billy Burns’ long pass picking out Stockdale for the all-important bonus point try. Cooney converted once more.

Leading 31-13, Ulster again were caught out defensively when Tomi Lewis scorched clear, Costelow’s conversion again making the margin 11 points which is how it remained throughout the final quarter.

Scarlets: I Nicholas; T Lewis, J Williams, E James, R Conbeer; S Costelow, G Davies; K Mathias, R Elias (capt), H O’Connor; M Jones, J Price; T Plumtree, D Davis, C Tuipulotu.

Replacements: S Evans for Elias (56 mins), W Jones for Mathias (57 mins), S Wainwright for O’Connor (57 mins), J Taylor for Davis (51 mins), B Williams for Jones (62 mins), K Hardy for Davies (55 mins), I Lloyd for James (51 mins), S Williams for Tuipulotu (68 mins), D Davis for Price (73 mins).

Yellow cards: T Plumtree (37 mins), G Davies (42 mins).

Ulster: M Lowry; E McIlroy, W Addison, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; B Burns, J Cooney; E O’Sullivan, R Herring, S Wilson; K Treadwell, A O’Connor (capt); C Izuchukwu, D McCann, N Timoney.

Replacements: T Stewart for Herring (70 mins), A Warwick for French (65 mins), J French for Wilson (20 mins), H Sheridan for Treadwell (58 mins), R Crothers for Timoney (58 mins), N Doak for Cooney (70 mins), S Moore for McCloskey (65 mins), D Ewers for Izuchukwu (58 mins).

Referee: G Gnecchi (Italy).